How to sleep better: the best in natural sleep aids

Tossing and turning at night? Unable to fall asleep even when you’re exhausted? Counting sheep can leave you frustrated, depressed, and more tired than ever.

There may be many reasons that you can’t seem to drop off at night. Too much stress, sugar, and caffeine are usually the main culprits - but certain medications, anxiety, depression, and your environment can also play a part.

Good news: there are some fantastic natural sleep aids and supplements that can help you fall asleep more easily and stay asleep, so that you wake up feeling refreshed. Read on to find out how to get better sleeps every night.

Valerian Root for Sleep

This flowering herb is one of the world’s oldest natural sleep remedies. Traditional herbalists have prescribed valerian root for hundreds of years to help people sleep more peacefully.

Numerous studies have shown that valerian root extract can not only improve sleep quality but also reduce anxiety. It’s believed to work by enhancing the production of Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a naturally occurring amino acid that acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. This simply means that valerian binds with specific GABA receptors in your brain, helping to reduce levels of excitatory neurotransmitters: the ones that can cause those worrying, anxious thoughts. GABA then works like a ‘chill out’ chemical, helping you to feel calmer and more relaxed. When your levels of GABA are low, you’re likely to feel more irritable and anxious.

Valerian root is often used in combination with other sleep-inducing herbs to maximise its sleep benefits.

Melatonin for Sleep Problems

Melatonin is a natural hormone that is naturally produced by your pineal gland.  Normally, the pineal gland is ‘switched on’ by external cues, such as the going down of the sun and the beginning of darkness at the end of the day. When your brain senses that bedtime is approaching, melatonin is released into your bloodstream, causing you to feel sleepy. Because it only works after dark, melatonin is sometimes referred to as the ‘Dracula’ of hormones!

However, as you get older, melatonin production decreases rapidly - which can mean that your body doesn’t get the signal to feel sleepy when it should.

The great news is that melatonin is now available in the form of a supplement. Taking melatonin for sleep at night has been shown to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, increases total sleep time and improves overall sleep quality. Montmorency cherries have been found to contain high levels of phytochemicals including melatonin, and it’s this extract that is often used in sleep supplements.

L-Theanine for Sleep

Most of us could do with a little L-theanine! This amazing natural compound not only helps relieve feelings of stress but can induce a more restful, lasting sleep.

L-theanine is a type of amino acid found primarily in the green tea plant. Like Valerian, it helps to promote natural sleep by boosting levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which are involved with stress, sleep, mood, focus, and memory. L-theanine also helps with GABA production, which can help keep you feeling more positive and relaxed in times of stress. And being calmer at night certainly helps with falling asleep!

Clinical studies involving L-theanine have shown that subjects take less time to fall asleep and wake up less often, which means they enjoy a deeper sleep. Another bonus is that L-theanine helps to improve mental clarity. L-theanine can be found in Go Healthy Go Stress Remedy.

Chamomile Tea for Sleep

Chamomile is the ultimate natural sedative, and one that can be taken as a tea or as a supplement.  This pretty little flower is known as a ‘carminative’, which means it can help to soothe the mucous membranes of the digestive system, relieving gas or discomfort. And we all know how a sore tummy can keep us awake at night!

At the same time, chamomile eases frazzled nerves and induces a feeling of calm, bringing on the peacefulness that you need to get a good night’s shut-eye. Drinking a cup or two of chamomile tea throughout the day can help to settle your body and mind so that you’re ready for sleep at bedtime. It’s also great as an after-dinner drink to help with digestion. Clinical studies have shown that chamomile is especially beneficial for helping young children and the elderly sleep more soundly.

A few other great herbal relaxants include passionflower, St John’s Wort, peppermint, and hops. These are readily available in tea bags or as loose leaves which you can brew at home.

Magnesium for sleep

It’s estimated that up to 50 percent of adults are deficient in magnesium - so it’s no wonder that so many struggle to get to sleep. Magnesium is an essential mineral involved with muscle relaxation. It also plays a major role in converting certain proteins into chemicals that help you feel sleepy. Unfortunately, our busy lifestyles and late nights can deplete our levels of magnesium, leading to deficiency. That’s why magnesium is now one of the most popular health supplements in the world!

A daily magnesium supplement may not only help you to nod off faster but can also prevent you from waking up throughout the night. It’s especially recommended for people who struggle with anxiety and stress: magnesium plays a major role in the stress-response system and helps reduce the stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.

Magnesium’s muscle-relaxing effects are also great for people who suffer from restless legs at night. Look for a supplement that contains magnesium citrate, as this has been shown to have the most beneficial effects on the body in terms of relaxation, digestion and sleep.

5-HTP for Sleep

5-Hydroxytryptophan - also known as 5-HTP - is a compound made naturally in the body. However, like melatonin, our levels of this important amino acid decline as we age.

5-HTP helps the body to produce more serotonin, the “happy chemical” that plays a major part in regulating mood and sleep-wake cycles. By increasing serotonin, 5-Hydroxytryptophan supports the neurochemical processes that promote quality rest, as well as keeping your body’s biological clock running properly. 5-HTP is also indirectly involved in producing melatonin, which - as we’ve explained above - is another hormone required for getting a good rest.

As a bonus, 5-HTP is also beneficial for improving your mood. Some studies have shown it can reduce the risks of panic attacks and symptoms of panic, as well as anxiety and emotional stress. It may help reduce nightmares and sleep terrors in children. Supplements containing 5-HTP are made from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, a plant native to Africa.

As with all natural sleep aids and supplements, be sure to talk to your doctor or health professional before starting anything new. Happy snoozing!